You Wanna See Some Real Terror?

The travails of Hummercide suspect Josh Connole

People I spoke with who know Josh insist not only that the crime was not within his nature or modus operandi—that he's dedicated to nonviolence and wouldn't be caught dead wearing the Nikes the suspect wore—but also that it to a photographic certainty wasn't him. Though the FBI has had some 30 years to learn to tell its longhairs apart, the lanky guy they identified as Josh in the video simply doesn't look like him, friends say.

"The agents were bragging to me about the great face-mapping technology and other things they have," Connole said. "You'd think that with all that technology, they'd be equal to anyone I know just looking at the photos with a magnifying glass and seeing it's obviously not me."

One acquaintance convinced of his innocence is Jarret Lovell, one of the founding members of the Orange County Peace Coalition and a professor of criminology at Cal State Fullerton. Seeing the video footage cinched it, he said, "but it was the way they went about the arrest that first made me doubt he might be guilty. You don't behave in that fashion when you've got evidence. It's not just in the criminology textbooks; all you have to do is watch Law and Order to know they never make an arrest with one piece of evidence, and here they were going in with no warrant, not telling him what charges he was being arrested on—that all reeks of the PATRIOT Act."

I do not like Hummers, though they are very useful: until all the assholes in the world start wearing signs that warn, "I am an asshole," Hummers are the next best thing. But blowing them up is also an assholic thing to do. I would be very glad if the FBI caught the guys who did it, particularly if they did it the old-fashioned way, with evidence and respect for the law. But I'm worried a hell of a lot less about those chunks of metal than I am about the rights of our fellow Americans.

At two weeks after the raid, the residents of Regen V were still without their computers and other personal property. Witnesses, by the way, say the agents began searching through things well before the search warrant arrived, while attorney Paparian maintains that most of the search then was conducted outside the legal time frame of 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. "The law recognizes that nighttime invasion is egregious," he says.

And Connole is still branded a suspect. Paparian plans to file for a declaration of factual innocence.

He said, "Josh was arrested at gunpoint without probable cause. They denied his Fourth Amendment rights. They've taken his good name. They took every pair of pants he has! All he's done is exercise his First Amendment rights, and he's never violated the law."

If Connole is indeed as innocent as he seems, I hope he sues the government's pants off and they'll have to give him lots of your and my tax dollars as recompense. But I have to agree with Paparian, who says, "The only real remedy would be to repeal the U.S. Patriot Act and fire John Ashcroft. We can't have lawless law enforcement like this."

Lenny Bruce probably said it best back in the 1960s: that the Bill of Rights doesn't exist to protect criminals, but to protect us against the government becoming criminals.

If the Bush administration is hoping to use its newfound powers to silence dissent, it isn't working yet in this case. Connole said, "All this made me realize the blatant disregard the government has for our rights, and it's made me that much more committed."

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